September 16, 2019

Some companies require employees to wear uniforms, and some have policies that dictate how employees should be dressed—ever see a lawyer in a courtroom in jeans? Probably not. While policies around appropriate company attire and uniforms are common practice, sometimes requirements become a bit controversial. After all, what if the policy requires that employees wear very uncomfortable shoes?

Why would any company require employees to wear uncomfortable shoes, you might be wondering? Well, we’re talking specifically about high heels—and it’s a heated topic in Japan. Some companies require that women wear high heels and that just isn’t sitting well with some women in Japan. What started as a petition to the Labor Ministry protesting the fact that companies require that women wear high heels has become a growing social media campaign with thirty-two-year-old actress Yumi Ishikawa leading the way. While there has been no response by the Labor Ministry yet, the #KuToo petition has started an interesting debate about high heels and dress codes in the workplace.

High heels are often a contentious topic when it comes to women’s fashion. While some women may find it empowering or stylish, others find it sexist and uncomfortable. Interestingly enough, high heels were invented to be used by men in the 1600s to help them appear taller. Today, heels are mostly worn by women. Are they comfortable? Not always, and this is what Ishikawa wants to point out with her petition.

Interesting fact #1: Japan is not the first country to explore the idea of unfair dress codes in the workplace. The Philippines and British Columbia actually passed laws in 2017 that stopped companies from requiring that women wear high heels to work.

Interesting fact #2: Why is the movement called #KuToo? It’s a play on the word for Japanese shoes “kutsu” combined with the #metoo movement.